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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Greater Idaho’ measure passes in 13th Oregon county

By Samantha Swindler The Oregonian

A 13th county voted this month in support of a long-shot effort that would redraw the state lines between Oregon and Idaho.

Voters in Crook County, located near the center of Oregon, supported a May ballot measure put forward by the organization known as Greater Idaho. The measure passed with 53% of the vote (or with 5,086 votes) and advised the Crook County Court that voters “support continued negotiations regarding a potential relocation of the Oregon-Idaho border to include Crook County.”

It’s not exactly a vote to secede from Oregon, but more of a symbolic measure to show voter sentiment. Counties do not have the authority to leave or join a state, and relocating the border would require approval from both the Idaho and Oregon legislatures, as well as U.S. Congress.

Changing state borders doesn’t seem to happen much. In 1961, a small piece of the border between Minnesota and North Dakota was changed over flood control concerns. But the Greater Idaho movement seeks a much larger territorial divide — and not over something as simple as the flow of a river. This breakup would be about politics.

Proponents of the movement argue that eastern Oregon is more culturally and politically aligned with Idaho and that relocating the border to include those counties would address rural Oregonians’ concerns of feeling neglected by the more populated and left-leaning western Oregon counties.

The two states have quite different political landscapes. Cannabis and abortion are illegal in Idaho. Idaho has a lower minimum wage and a sales tax.

“For the last three years we’ve been going directly to voters and asking them what they want for their state government,” Mike McCarter, president of the Greater Idaho movement, said in statement on the Crook County results. “What they’re telling us through these votes is that they want their leaders to move the border. In our system, the people are the ones in charge, and it’s time for the leaders representing them to follow through.”

Crook County joins 12 other counties since 2020 that have approved ballot measures directing officials to look into the border change: Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler. Voters in two counties — Douglas and Josephine — voted down pro-Greater Idaho measures in 2022. (Wallowa County, which previously rejected a Greater Idaho measure, voted again on the topic in 2023. It passed by 7 votes.)